Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

No one likes rejection – it doesn’t matter if it comes from friends, family, coworkers, or a crush. Others, on the other feeling, are unable to move on from rejection without experiencing excruciating feelings of emotional pain and anxiety. While it is completely normal to be a sensitive person, someone with high rejection sensitivity will experience deep emotional pain from their mood disorder. There is a condition known as rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) that affects people who are particularly sensitive to criticism or rejection (it can occur even when no rejection has taken place).

So, what’s the deal with RSD?

For those who experience rejection sensitive dysphoria, normal life experiences such as rejection, criticism, or failure simply become too much to bear. Their responses are much more severe than would be typically expected, and can be restricting, difficult to manage, and affect quality of life. Sometimes, this complete dread of rejection will fuel a person to work hard to be universally liked, or they may avoid situations where they could be hurt emotionally. This mental health condition can also negatively impact relationships – the belief that you are being, or will be, rejected becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sensitive Dysphoria as a Sign of Rejection

While no one enjoys rejection or failure, those with rejection sensitive dysphoria may exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety about being humiliated or ashamed
  • Having an emotional outburst and getting angry when they feel rejected
  • Setting impossibly high standards for themselves\s Experiencing low self-esteem
  • Feeling anxious, especially in social settings
  • Problems in my personal life
  • Avoiding other people and social situations
  • Feeling like a failure because they haven’t lived up to others’ expectations
  • After being rejected, someone is considering harming themselves.

Notably, some of these signs and symptoms can also be found in other types of mental illness, including:

  • Depression and manic episodes
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome):
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety in social situations

It’s critical to seek a proper diagnosis from a qualified psychologist, psychotherapist, counsellor, physician, or other mental health professional to avoid misdiagnosis. There is a causal link between having adult ADHD and experiencing any of these symptoms, so consider seeking a more immediate diagnosis.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria Factors in

However, the exact reason for this is still a mystery for those who suffer from RSD. They are extremely sensitive to rejection and are easily triggered by certain situations. Rejection sensitivity is not caused by a single factor, but rather by a history of trauma – rejection and neglect early in life – as well as by genetics, as is the case with many mental health issues.

Some people are genetically predisposed to RSD, and it can be passed down in families. In other cases, a parent or caretaker may have been overly critical or neglectful to a child with RSD. Low self-esteem, intense fear of rejection, anxiety, and abandonment in relationships are all symptoms that may have been exacerbated or exacerbated by trauma in these people’s lives. Other situations can also cause an extreme sensitivity to rejection, including being bullied by peers or a romantic partner.

Feelings of Rejection ADHD and dysphoria

Disgust at being rejected can affect anyone, but research shows that certain groups are particularly vulnerable to it. Often, people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are very sensitive to what other people think or say about them, with up to 99 percent of teens and adults with ADHD reporting they are more sensitive to rejection.

ADHD is characterised by an overreaction of the nervous system to environmental stimuli. Thus almost any type of perceived rejection can trigger a stress response and cause extreme emotional reactions. As a matter of fact, by the age of 12, researchers estimate that children with ADHD have received 20,000 more negative messages about themselves than the average 12-year-old. The rejection or criticism they receive can be imagined, but because of their condition, they often receive real feedback.

Diagnostic Procedure for Rejection Hyper-Sensitivity Dysphoria

If someone is suffering from rejection sensitive dysphoria, a doctor must first rule out the possibility that they are suffering from a mental health problem. This is due to the fact that its signs and symptoms can be found in a wide range of mental health conditions. Seek a professional diagnosis from a licenced counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapist, or other mental health professional to assess symptoms.

During the initial consultation, a doctor may ask about family history and symptoms. When asked about how they react and feel in different situations, most people are going to give honest answers. There are also online self-tests to help determine if a person’s symptoms match those of RSD.

Some of the screening questions may include:

  • When your feelings are hurt, do you experience an outburst of rage that is sudden and intense?
  • Whenever you are subjected to criticism or rejection, do you fall into a state of depression?
  • Are you your harshest critic?
  • Is your fear of meeting new people based on the erroneous assumption that no one will like you?
  • When it comes to pleasing others, do you go out of your way?
  • Consider yourself unable to continue feeling this way, do you?

Treating Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

There is no cure for this disease, but there are ways to treat it if you already have it. Rejection sensitive dysphoria treatment options are primarily determined by two factors:

the intensity of your symptoms \s if there is overlap with other disorders


Medication may be prescribed to help calm a person’s physiological reactions to rejection and also relieve associated symptoms such as hyperactivity and depression.

CBT is a form of talk therapy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy, in addition to medication, can help a person with hypersensitivity lessen their sensitivity and learn to deal with rejection and criticism. During cognitive behavioural therapy, an individual works with a licenced professional therapist in a highly structured way to help develop specific, actionable coping techniques. The focus is placed on treating a person’s problems by managing dysfunctional emotions, behaviours, and thought patterns.

Stress management

Better managing life’s stress can also help treat RSD, as a person is more likely to have an emotional reaction to rejection if they are stressed out. Be sure to eat well, get enough sleep and participate in physical exercise to help promote a calm mind.

There is promise in treating rejection sensitive dysphoria – and the first step is awareness. Although rejection sensitive dysphoria is linked to ADHD and some other mental health conditions, anyone can experience extreme emotional sensitivity at being criticised or rejected. Because untreated symptoms will worsen over time, it’s critical to speak with a mental health professional as soon as you notice any intense or overwhelming emotional reactions to rejection.

If you’re looking for immediate help with your rejection sensitive dysphoria, consider speaking with an online therapist — a convenient way to start feeling better fast.

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